We all know that diet, exercise, and genetics can affect our heart health, but it turns out shingles can, too. A new study shows that herpes zoster, or shingles, does more than just cause painful rashes—it can also increase your chances for a heart attack or stroke, according to a research letter published in the .
South Korean researchers found that people with shingles had a 60 percent higher risk of heart attack and a 35 percent higher risk of stroke. They also found that the risk was the highest in the first year after experiencing shingles. With about one out of every three Americans contracting shingles, according to the , this is one development worth noting.
The study analyzed about 500,000 people who had a medical check-up in South Korea. More than 23,000 of those people had shingles. In that infected group, people were more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, but they also were more likely to exercise more, and smoke and drink less.
Dr. Mary Norine Walsh, president of the American College of Cardiology, told that the link between shingles and heart health isn't direct. After any major health issue the risk of cardiovascular events increases because immunity decreases.
Still, this new development may be an incentive to get the shingles vaccine. The recommends that everyone 60 years or older get vaccinated, regardless of whether they have had chickenpox. "Our tagline is always 'talk to your doctor,' but knowing this association may add to reasons that a person would elect to get the vaccine," she told .
Whether you have shingles or not, the expert advises everyone to take these four steps to decrease your chances of a heart attack or stroke: exercise, maintain a healthy body weight, don't smoke, and pay attention to your cholesterol and blood pressure.
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